Because this dish depends so much on the nature of the vegetables used, the cooking time can differ (which explains why, depending on which recipe you read, this dish can take 20 minutes or 2 hours). While many recipes simply call for a mingling of all the vegetables in the pot together, those in fear of overcooking the vegetables might like this method where vegetables are cooked bit by bit, each taking a turn. Just remember to note how your own vegetables seem and adjust accordingly. Also, you may like your vignarola soupy or only just held together with a bit of moisture: You can adjust the consistency by braising for more or less time.
It's best when you let the stew sit for a few minutes to settle, then serve it warm, rather than hot, or even at room temperature—but always with plenty of crusty bread. Like so many good, rustic dishes, the leftovers are even better the next day (and delicious dressing pasta). —Emiko
4 to 5
medium globe artichokes
Juice of half a lemon
(1 kilogram) whole fava beans in their pods
(1 kilogram) fresh peas in their pods (or about 1 pound of shelled fresh or frozen peas)
(40 grams) pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped into thin strips
small spring onions (or 1 regular onion), sliced finely
Prepare the artichokes by pulling off the leaves starting from the base and going round and round until you reach the tender, pale-colored leaves. Trim the stem to about 1 1/2 inches, and trim the outermost green part of the stem. Cut the top, pointed half of the artichoke off completely. Place the artichokes in a large bowl of cold water with the lemon juice (this stops them from blackening) until you have prepared all the artichokes. Finish by cutting the artichokes into wedges (if there is a fluffy choke, remove it with a teaspoon) and place the artichoke wedges back in the lemon water.
Remove the pods of the fava beans and peas.
In a skillet large enough to hold all the vegetables, cook the pancetta in the olive oil over low-medium heat. When crisp and golden, remove and leave to drain on paper towels. In the same pan, sauté the onion over low heat until soft and translucent, a few minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan, along with the artichoke wedges and a pinch of salt. Add enough water to reach a depth of about 1/2 inch. Braise the artichokes for 7 to 10 minutes, or until tender.
In the meantime, blanch the fava beans in a pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove any thick skins from large beans, if desired (I usually consider beans larger than my thumbprint to be big).
Add the fava beans, peas, and lettuce to the pan. If the liquid has evaporated too quickly, add some more (about 1/2 to 1 cup) and stir the vegetables together, cooking for a further 2 to 3 minutes or until the lettuce has wilted entirely and the peas are tender but bright.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the mint. Remove from the heat and let the pan sit, covered, for about 5 minutes before serving the vignarola warm, preferably with slices of crusty bread.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.